In 2006 we received a donation that included approximately 20 photographs and several personal documents belonging to a Japanese soldier believed to have been killed in battle. Superior native, Ted Merrell found them while serving on the island of Luzon in the Philippines. When we began putting together an exhibit about the Imperial Japanese Army, these items came to our attention as something very special.
With the help of translator Kim Habig, we were able to find a name on some of the documents. They belonged to army Private Yonezou Sahara. That’s when we started to think it might be possible to find this soldier’s descendants and return to the items to their rightful home.
Kim, who also serves as a board member with the Superior Sister City Commission, suggested that we enlist the help of Superior’s sister city, Ami-Machi. A delegation would be visiting in the summer of 2015.
During that visit to Superior, they made a stop at our museum and we brought them back to get a close up look at the items. They took pictures of the items and agreed to help search for his family. With the help of the Japanese Ministry of Health and Human Services, they were able to track down his surviving relatives.
In August of 2016, a Superior delegation visited Ami-Machi and presented the items to Private Sahara’s brother. It was then that we learned that Private Sahara did in fact survive the war. He married and had 2 sons. He passed away in 2013.
We are very honored to have played a part in returning these home where they belong.